Sort file:- Dover, June, 2022.

Page Updated:- Thursday, 09 June, 2022.

PUB LIST PUBLIC HOUSES Barry Smith and Paul Skelton

Earliest 1780s

Wine Vaults

Latest 1907

(Name to)

182 Snargate Street

Five Post Lane Post Office Directory 1903


From the Dover Express 25 July 2002 by Bob Hollingsbee.

Wine Vaults

FOR YEARS I have been intrigued by the once extensive system of wine vaults in the famous White Cliffs of Dover, at Snargate Street, behind what are now the Masonic Hall premises.

There are a number of interesting old engravings in local records, picturing what Court's the former wine merchants' premises looked like.

There were attractive terraced gardens with grape vines and a sun-room and a greenhouse/conservatory; on the steep cliff face.

The well kept gardens in stark contrast to the forgotten site, overgrown by trees and scrub, today - were reached by flights of steps.

Evidently Court's customers would come on a fine day and sit and taste wines on the terraces, looking out over the busy docks and harbour to the Channel beyond, and be conducted on guided tours of the vaults.

So I was very interested when I heard recently by e-mail from Court family history researcher Mike Mead-Briggs, living near Southampton.

It was his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Stephen Court who came to Dover in the 1780s, from Acrise, just outside Folkestone, to establish the business in Snargate Street which was to remain in his family for over a century - through several generations.

Stephen, who was born in 1761 and died in 1834, was married to Mary Rogers and had 12 children, of whom three sons, John, Thomas and Rogers, were to join him in the business.

I wonder how many descendants still live in East Kent and perhaps don't even know about their family links to the firm?

Rogers Stephen Court, great-great-great-great-grandfather of Mike Mead-Briggs, seems to be the one who succeeded his father in running the business when he retired in 1827.

He served an apprenticeship as a brandy merchant, and was made a Freeman of Dover in 1812, when he was 24.

He developed the gardens, ranged over six terraces, above the vaults and offices.

The business was featured over several pages in Measom's "Official South-Eastern Railway Guide," of 1863, with one of the engravings - (above) showing the gardens, the rather grand looking wine merchant's shop and the entrance to the cavernous vaults.

In modern times these vaults have been known as "Barwick's Caves," and there is talk of a tunnel link to the '64 Steps' at Cowgate Hill.

Rogers Court, who had property in Lydden became a town councillor and, in 1838, was made an alderman.

He married firstly Nancy Gilbee, at St Mary's Church in 1813, and secondly; Eliza Angel Payn, in St James' Church, Dover, in 1826, Nancy having died in 1823 after raising three children.

Eliza was the daughter of Anthony Freeman Payn, proprietor of one of the town's most important licensed premises in dockland, the York Hotel.

Sadly, after raising five children, Eliza too died, ten years later, when she was only 30. Both she and Nancy were buried at Whitfield.

Rogers Stephen Court with Juno

Mike sent me a copy of the beautiful lithograph print - pictured left - of Rogers Stephen Court with his hunting dog Juno, from a portrait by a well known caricaturist, William Heath RA, who lived in Dover in the 1830s.

At the age of 23 Rogers' brother John also became a Freeman of Dover in 1808. But he died five years later and is also buried in the Whitfield churchyard.

Mike says there is a ,bit of a mystery about the third brother, Thomas listed in 1811 as a "porter merchant." Perhaps he too, died young.

From Mike's researches it appears the Court family once owned Archer's Court, a Whitfield manor.

Stephen Court died in 1847, aged 59 and was buried at Whitfield. His business was taken over by sons Stephen Court and Henry Payn Court, who also worked for the firm.


Lukeys take over


In January 1899 the Dover Express advertised a sale by Worsfolds of the wine vaults. The wine merchant's business had been bought by the Dover firm of Lukeys. The gardens, described in glowing terms, were said to extend over six terraces, the retaining walls "clothed with vines," and featuring two summer houses. With the vaults and counting house went a large, adjoining family home, with nine bedrooms and four attic rooms.

There were no buyers for the house but the yard and bonded vault and two associated caves, each 100ft long and 10ft wide, were sold for 350.

Mike Mead-Briggs is hoping to trace any local descendants of the Court wine merchants' family.


From the Dover Express 8 August 2002 by Bob Hollingsbee.

Court and Co. Wine Vaults

ONE OF my family friends had quite a surprise when she read my Memories page feature about the one-time terraced gardens on the cliff-face behind Snargate Street, which were above Court & Co's former wine vaults.

Those gardens later became the Belle Vue Tea Gardens, behind the Masonic Hall, and it is those gardens which are of particular interest to Barbara Hatton; of Markland Road. She, like me, used to go to St Martin's Primary School.

Some of her family were in the licensed trade, she told me.

"My mother, Bessie - Eileen Norris (nee Farrier) used to talk about going up the cliff to walk in the gardens which were above Courts' wine vaults," she said.

"Mum, who lived in Minerva Avenue, would go with her mother, as a child, to visit an aunt who lived over Sharp's in Snargate Street, for tea. From there they would go up into the gardens on the cliff."

Grandmother was a Barton and they were related to the Sharp family, said Barbara. Grandad Barton had a wet fish shop, she said, in Townwall Street, close to the old Robin Hood public house.

Old photographs show that this attractive pub had a striking picture in glazed tiles, on the exterior walls, of Robin Hood of Sherwood, dressed in Lincoln Green.

I discovered in a 1907 street directory that George Barton's fish shop, at 40 Townwall Street, was actually next door to the pub, which stood on the corner of St James Lane, leading down to St James Street.

Barbara told me her grandfather on the other side of the family, the Farriers, worked as a timekeeper at Buckland Mill and played bowls for Dover.

Court & Co's wine business and residence is shown in an 1875 street directory as being at 137 to 140 Snargate Street, with a large yard for the wholesaler's brewer's drays seen in the old engraving pictured above.

A later directory, for 1890, gives the names of P. Simpson Court JP and P. Southard Court Esq. who were presumably directors of the business which, apart from importing wines and spirits, also offered a wide variety of beers and stout.

In my feature about the business on July 25 I said the caves and bonded vaults were sold at auction in 1899, but no buyer was found for the house and yard.

By the following year the Dover Standard street directory was listing a man by the name of A. Goodenough as running the "Belle Vue Family and Commercial Temperance Hotel" at 137 Snargate Street, so perhaps he bought or leased the old house in which the Courts had lived.

The Belle Vue tea gardens and hotel venture did not last long. Directory entries soon stopped and, by 1910 the Royal Navy Institute or club had taken over at least part of the premises and was there until the end of the First World War. Ted Bonnage, 83, of Eastry, who used to live in Dover, was interested in the striking Court family picture which appeared in Memories about the old wine business.

He said his son-In-law, Tim Ebsworth, a member of an old Dover seafaring family, had a copy of the same picture, but he has always thought the portrait was that of a member of the Broadley farming family, and the pheasant a 'trophy' of a shoot.

Married to Ted's daughter Linda, Tim now lives on the Isle of Wight. A marine pilot officer, working out of Gosport, Tim worked on the Dover lifeboat.

Ted, a retired gas company worker, who still enjoys boat fishing, and shooting in the winter, told me "Four generations of the Bonnage family worked for the local gas company, giving an amazing total of about 900 years' service!"

On a sad note, I was very sorry to learn of the death of one of my regular readers, Mrs Edith Goj, of St Margaret's, who I featured in Memories back in June 1999, and express my condolences to her two sons.

Passionately interested in Old Dover, Edith generously allowed me to copy some of her precious collection of historic postcards, including some of old Dover trams.

I was also sad to read of the passing of the wife of former Kent miner Robert Job, of Biddulph, Staffordshire, who has also featured in Memories. He wrote a book about the Kent coalfield which has been with a publisher for some months.


Belle Vue tea gardens

The Belle Vue tea gardens which were once lovingly cared for on the cliff face behind the Masonic Hall, in Snargate Street. Pictured above is an old engraving of Court & Co, the wine merchants' extensive wine vaults, off-licence and yard, together with the gardens they cultivated on the cliff face, festooned with vines. Here customers could sample wines.


A six day licence was granted to Adams in 1872. In 1907 the sign became "Trocadero".

Court's wine vaults

The entrance, in 1863, to Court's extensive wine vaults which extended into the cliffs at Snargate Street, with a terraced system of gardens up the cliff face topped by a miniature castle.

Kentish Gazette, 28 December 1847.


NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN, that by an Indenture of ASSIGNMENT, bearing date the Twenty First day of DECEMBER Instant, THOMAS WILLIAM HUDSON, of the Borough of DOVER, in the county of Kent, INN KEEPER, Assigned all his Household Furniture, Stock in Trade, Book Debts, and all other his personal Estate and Effects whatsoever, unto Thomas Ismay, of Dover aforesaid, Ironmonger, and Stephen Court, of the same place, Wine Merchant, upon trust for the general Benefit of the Creditors of the said Thomas William Hudson; and that the said Indenture was executed by the said Thomas William Hudson, Thomas Ismay and Stephen Court, on the said Twenty First day of December, in the presence of, and attested by, William Henry Payn, Solicitor, Custom House Quay, Dover; and John Watts, his clerk. And Notice is hereby further given, that the said Indenture of Assignment is now lying at the Office of the said Willimn Henry Payn, for execution by such Creditors of the said Thomas William Hudson, as may be desirous of executing the same. And all those Creditors who neglect, or object, to join and execute such Deed, within One Month from the date hereof, will be excluded from all benefit and advantage to be derived therefrom.

Dated this 21st December, 1847.


From the Kentish Chronicle, 4 June, 1864.


On Friday evening, some men in the employ of Mr. P. S. Court, at the “Wine Vaults,” Snargate Street, Dover, were engaged in removing a heavy crate from a dray, when the crate, in its descent, came in contact with the leg of one of them, a man named Claringbould, who sustained such injuries as necessitated his removal to the Hospital.


From the Whitstable Times, 22 March, 1902.


The will of the late Mr. Charles Lewis Adams, of Messrs. Lewis, Adams, and Co., 182, Snargate Street, Dover, wine merchant, has been sworn at 7,279 8s. 7d.


From the Dover Express and East Kent News, 22 July 1966.

Courts poster

57-year-old Alexander Wooldridge, of Linden Villas Gardens came across an old poster printed for Courts, the old Dover wine merchants.

This recalls the fact that there were once an extensive series of wine vaults with cliff-side gardens at above in Old Snargate Street.

Mr. Wooldridge who has lived in the village all his life was preparing an old picture for re-framing when he came across this poster which had been used as a backing sheet.

The poster is particularly interesting because the remarkable terraced gardens shown are still to be seen today - to the rear of the offices of Hammonds, the shipping agents.


The following photographs have kindly been sent from Paul Wells and show the insides of the wine vaults as they are today 2009.

Inside Courts Caves 2009


Inside Courts Caves 2009


Inside Courts Caves 2009


Inside Courts Caves 2009


Inside Courts Caves 2009


Inside Courts Caves 2009


Inside Courts Caves 2009

During the war they were used as air-raid shelters and signs can still be found, making life inside a little more civilised.

Inside Courts Caves 2009


Inside Courts Caves 2009

Further details at



ADAMS Lewis 1872 Next pub licensee had

ADAMS L & Co. 1901-02+ Post Office Directory 1903


If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-